More eyewitness reports emerge of attack on Gaza aid flotilla

Now that some of the people kidnapped and detained by Israel after its raid on the aid flotilla are being released, they are speaking out and horrifying stories are being told. Of course, we know that what people say immediately after a traumatic event can often be unreliable which is why what is needed is an impartial investigation to get at the truth of the claims and counterclaims. But since the US and Israel have taken the absurd position that Israel should conduct the inquiry, we can forget about getting the truth from that source and have to depend on other sources.

The London Independent has tried to piece together the sequence of events and provides the most detailed report that I have seen so far. It is chilling.

But one thing is fast becoming clear – many of the dead were shot multiple times at point-blank range. One was a journalist taking photographs. “A man was shot… between the eyebrows, which indicates that it was not an attack that took place from self-defence,” Hassan Ghani, a passenger, said in an account posted on YouTube. “The soldier had time to set up the shot.” Mattias Gardell, a Swedish activist, told the TT news bureau: “The Israelis committed premeditated murder… Two people were killed by shots in the forehead, one was shot in the back of the head and one in the chest.”

A report from the London Guardian describes how the passengers were treated, in particular recounting a ghastly story that Israeli commandos pointed a gun at a one-year old child in order to coerce the ship’s captain.

An Algerian activist, who giving only a first name of Sabrina, accused Israeli commandos of taking a one-year-old child hostage.

“They point a gun to his head in front of his Turkish parents to force the captain of our ship to stop sailing,” she said.

An Algerian, Izzeddine Zahrour, said the Israeli authorities “deprived us of food, water and sleep, and we weren’t allowed to use the toilet”.

“It was an ugly kidnapping, and subsequently bad treatment in Israeli jail,” he said. “They handcuffed us, pushed us around and humiliated us.”

Other reporters on board the ships also describe what happened that disputes Israel’s version of events. Tellingly, all the journalists on board had their video confiscated by the Israelis. This BBC report describes the experience of a British citizen on the boat, and this Gulf News report provides more details

Max Blumenthal provides evidence that rather than the killings being the result of a bungled operation in which the Israelis were taken by surprise at the resistance they received, the Israeli Defense Forces detailed its violent strategy in advance as part of its domestic political agenda.

Statements by senior Israeli military commanders made in the Hebrew media days before the massacre revealed that the raid was planned over a week in advance by the Israeli military and was personally approved by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Minister of Defense Ehud Barak. The elite Israeli commando unit known as Unit 13 was tasked with carrying out the mission and its role was known by the Israeli public well before the raid took place. Details of the plan show that the use of deadly force was authorized and calculated. The massacre of activists should not have been unexpected.

Why didn’t Israel’s leaders choose to deal with the flotilla in a more judicious fashion? Were they that stupid, or just crazy? From the details of the plan it appears that Netanyahu and his cohorts had envisioned Entebbe Part Deux, a daring anti-terror raid that would lift the sinking morale of the Israeli public while intimidating Iran and the Arab world. Though Israel may be more isolated than ever as a result of the massacre, the Netanyahu administration is reaping considerable political benefits at home.

We see once again that whenever the US or Israel gets caught doing something outrageous and morally indefensible, the discussion in the US immediately shifts to questions about legality (i.e., was the order to waterboard and otherwise torture prisoners legal? Is holding prisoners indefinitely without access to family or lawyers legal? And so on.) and attention is deflected away from the moral outrage. But this seems to work just one way. If international law can be used in their favor, it is seized upon. If it goes against, it is ignored. And when a country perceived as an ‘enemy’ of the US or Israel (say North Korea or Iran) does something, the illegality is simply taken for granted and moral outrage is heaped on the country.

Former US Ambassador Edward Peck, who was one of the people on board the ship attacked by Israel, talks about this phenomenon:

I just got off a radio interview. One of the things that distresses me is the extent to which Israel has been successful in, for example, getting Americans to ask questions as to why the passengers on that big Turkish ship attacked the Israeli soldiers.

I said, wait a minute, wait a minute, they were defending the ship against people who were attacking it. You’ve got it backwards. There are civilians, men and woman, on a Turkish-flagged vessel, in international waters. And here comes a group of heavily armed — forget the paintball story — heavily armed guys who are going to take over the ship by force and then take it to Israel, where the passengers don’t want to go. And so they pick up deck chairs and other things to fight off these heavily armed — and by the way, masked — commandos, and somehow they become the attackers. So, that depresses me a little bit.

Leaving aside the horrible bloodshed and all, it becomes a war of words. Americans are reading what comes out of Tel Aviv, which is carried in the American press… So, all of a sudden, the people on the Turkish ship are described as terrorist, Israel-hating, Hamas supporters, murderers and killers.

Peck also says that after being forcibly taken to Israel he was told he was going to be deported because he entered that country illegally! This is the Orwellian world that we enter when we accept Israel’s version of events and of what is legal and illegal. As Anthony Dimaggio says in his discussion of the legal issues, “Media outlets are more than happy to obfuscate international law in order to absolve Israel of criticism.” Former British ambassador Craig Murray also weighs in on the legal question.

Next: When is an American not really an American?

POST SCRIPT: Glenn Greenwald smacks down Eliot Spitzer

I have written before that Eliot Spitzer is one of those people whom I am sorry that his personal life removed from politics. But in this interview with Glenn Greenwald, he shows that like all other reflexively pro-Israel apologists, he is perfectly willing to check his principles at the door and use his reasoning skills in defense of Israel’s actions. But Glenn Greenwald has the facts and arguments on his side.


  1. Josh Friedman says


    I think you may have mixed cause and effect here. Perhaps Israel’s mistake was to announce their intent to use force on the ship if met with resistance. Video of Mavi Marmara passengers before leaving turkey clearly shows that many were intent on martyrdom. Israel’s announcement gave them the perfect opportunity. The Rachel Corrie was recently intercepted without incident, because its passengers were sincere in their peaceful mission of drawing attention to the blockade (though after posting about it the other day, this peaceful ending seems to have escaped mention on your blog). Why would a peaceful humanitarian mission need sling shots? Night vision goggles? Stocks of bullet proof vests? Mavi Marmara passengers wanted confrontation, they wanted to die, and they wanted Israel to look bad in the process. It’s the same fanatic mentality that drives suicide bombers – death for the cause equals reward in heaven. Israel was foolish for falling into this trap.

    I think your posts on this issue have been overly one sided. As a long time reader of your blog, I’m dismayed to see your column turn from truth seeking and your personal opinion to a rehashing of Glenn Greenwald’s opinions (a simple control-f reveals that you mentioned his name or quoted his opinions 6 times in your last 4 posts alone).


  2. Scott says

    As much as I think Israel overreacted, I have to wonder about the passengers on the ship. Well-armed men are rapelling from helicopters, and they attack them with metal rods? Why didn’t they put their hands up and cooperate? I understand the desire to defend themselves, but it seems suicidal to attack Israeli commandos with improvised hand weapons.
    I’m sure there’s more to this story. Unfortunately, with Israel doing the investigation, we’ll never know the truth.

  3. Eric says

    “We see once again that whenever the US or Israel gets caught doing something outrageous and morally indefensible, the discussion in the US immediately shifts to questions about legality”

    I would think that the questions should start with legality, and if the laws don’t accurately reflect morals, maybe then they should shift to morality as we address the shortcomings in the law. But laws don’t originate in a vacuum.

    Moral questions often have many wrong answers and no right one, or vice versa. Legal questions may be (are) open to interpretation, but they (theoretically) have a right answer and a wrong one.

    Mano, I will admit up-front that I have a certain knee-jerk pro-Israel bias, and it is upsetting to me as more facts are coming to light of serious wrongs committed during the raid, but one of the main reasons I’ve been a fan of your blog for so long is that you collect facts & then draw your own conclusions. But you’ve assumed a lot during this entire series that isn’t necessarily borne out by the facts at hand, chief of which is your casual assumption that the raid & blockade are illegal. You aren’t (to my knowledge) a maritime law expert, and neither am I, but a lot of people who are, are weighing in, on both sides. In the past, you’ve been willing to show the opposing argument to your point of view and explain why you believe they’re wrong. Why not this time?

  4. says


    You raise some good questions that are deserving of a thoughtful response. I started writing one but, as often happens, it got too long so I will do it as a separate posting to appear on Wednesday or Thursday.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *